CLOYNE and Aghada will complete the first round of the Cork County PIHC when they collide in Castlemartyr next Sunday and already the portents are similar to every season, this is the most competitive championship under the jurisdiction of the Cork County Board.
Already we have had a few cracking matches in the opening round with Fermoy and Courcey Rovers putting on a splendid show last Sunday in a contest that went to extra-time before Fermoy came out on the right side.
There was just the point in it after 80 minutes, just as it was in last season’s final when Courcey Rovers lost to Charleville.
On the evidence presented last Sunday there is every chance that these two sides could meet up again later on in the season and that could even be in a final if they were kept apart.
For now, however, Fermoy are in a better place and Courcey Rovers will have to negotiate a potentially tricky second-round assignment.
In this grade of hurling there are no easy games, no soft touches and of the 16 participants, you wouldn't rule any team out.
For a dual club like Fermoy with a lot of dual players winning your opening round is very important.
When the draw was made in both codes it wasn’t overly kind to the North Cork team, Courcey Rovers in hurling, Castlehaven in football.
In both instances they probably went in as underdogs but in both times they exhibited a lot of character.
That might have been an issue with Fermoy teams in the past, not being able to apply the knockout punch when it was most required. That’s not the case anymore, though. There is a steelier resolve to their teams these days and whilst there’s many a tough hurdle to be surmounted going forward they will never again be easily overcome.
Courcey Rovers must await their second-round opponents and there is that bit of added pressure when you lose on day one.
One more defeat and your season is over for another year and given the fiercely competitive nature of the PIHC you have to be very careful.
At this juncture, despite the loss last Sunday, you would still believe that they will be involved at the business end of the campaign.
Fermoy are in a similar situation to the Ballinspittle outfit, they too have experienced the heartbreak of losing in a final as they did a few years ago to Bandon.
It’s never easy to come back from an experience like that, all the more so in this grade of hurling But the portents are strong right now and alongside Fr O’Neill’s, Kilworth, who had a fine win over Valley Rovers, Mallow, Castlelyons, Blarney among others they must be regarded as one of the more fancied teams.
Having viewed a few IHC games the previous night in Pairc Ui Rinn, there is a fair bit of a gulf in standard between the first tier and second tier.
We are not saying that the effort is any less in the lower grade but the PIHC is definitely a step or two higher.
Last Sunday there wasn’t any great problem in selecting the best player of the 30 plus on view.
Liam Coleman from Fermoy gave a superb exhibition of how to put the ball between the posts.
His haul of 14 points was a huge contributing factor in their victory and if he was to maintain that high standard it would be a huge plus for the team.
It really would require the wisdom of Solomon to come up with a winner in this grade. You may well have one of the lesser fancied teams coming through to bag the silverware next Autumn.
That won’t be the case in the SHC when it will all boil down again to the same four or five.
The East Cork deby in Castlemartyr next Sunday should add to the theory of this being the most competitive of all the grades.
Cloyne and Aghada are near neighbours, a few miles separating them and there is a rivalry there.
One thing is for sure, no quarter will be asked or given here on a day when East Cork will be centre stage again.